Posts by Celeste Hamilton Dennis


Meet a Connector: Leonie in Brisbane, Australia

In Leonie Sanderson’s opinion, here’s what Brisbane has going for it: innovative groups that eschew traditional nonprofit models, diverse projects that don’t rely too much on government funding, and overall, lots of people-powered good.

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The Brissie skyline
(photo by Cyron on Flickr’s Creative Commons)

What’s missing in “Brissie,” she says, is a sense of connectedness.

Nonprofits and groups typically compete for funding and resources, and they’re uninterested in banding together. For Leonie, this is one reason the Idealist Network is appealing.

“I am attracted to networks because I think more is possible. I like linking into the bigger picture. I believe there is value in a coordinated approach that doesn’t reinvent the wheel,” she says.

If there’s anyone suited to a Connector role, it’s Leonie. From hosting Feasts for Good to volunteering with the homeless on Sundays to being a Fellow with the Global Resilience Collaborative to leading her own informal do-good collective, she’s heavily involved in the Brisbane community.

She’s all about moving ideas into action, and she’s honest about what she can bring to the table.

“Actually I don’t know that anyone is ever truly neutral. It’s not possible as human beings,” she says. “However, I believe that I am good at facilitating change and encouraging new perspectives. I don’t feel a need to lead on other people’s ideas/projects but I like assisting with implementation.”

So far, Leonie is a one-person Team. To encourage others to join her, she’s considering her next step to be showing how awesome it is to be a part of a bigger network.

“I like to connect the dots, and I like collaborating,” she says. “I believe collaboration leads to better outcomes and more resilience.”

Do you live in Brisbane? Join Leonie! Live elsewhere? Look for a Connector Team near you or start one of your own.

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Ami and Megan field questions from Seattle

A couple of weeks ago, six Connectors met in Seattle for an awesome kick-off meeting that included lots and lots of Post-Its.

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Connectors Talya, Nic, Alyssa, Lisa, Traci, and Kimberlee

The Team talked about what brought each of them there, and why they were excited by the Network. They also generated a great list of questions that we’re sure some of you have also been thinking about.

Here are a few of them and our answers from Idealist’s Executive Director Ami Dar and Community Relations Manager Megan O’Leary:

Q: How will Groups form? (and when?)

A: We’re planning for the Groups functionality to be ready in late April. You’ll hear about it when it goes live! At that point, any Connector will be able to start a Group.

Q: What is the relationship between Connectors and Groups?

A: Connectors start and admin/moderate/facilitate Groups.

Q: How many Connectors do we need? Are we aiming to get more or have a core group of Connectors (there are 34 of us on the Seattle Team now)?

A: The more Connectors the better. We have been waiting until Groups are live before doing more outreach, but soon after that – and with some more materials for outreach – we will be sending many more people your way, and also unleashing you to invite others.

Q: What does it mean to be neutral in the role of a Connector (what are some examples)? What if this conflicts with us moving forward (moving from talk to action)?

Neutrality: all it means is that your focus is on generating action, and connecting and match-making, as opposed to coming up with specific projects or actions. Your role is to invite people to voice what they want to do, and help them (or help them help each other) do it. You are a moderator, facilitator, cheerleader, mini-coach, cross-pollinating bumble bee. But you don’t take sides on specific issues.

Q: Is there a structure we can use as a guide as we continue with our in-person meetings?

A: Structure for meetings: we will be providing more of that asap.

Q: How can we make sure we’re not duplicating work already being done?

A: Individually or as a Team, it might make sense to set some goals for what success looks like in Seattle to help shape your offline connection and to avoid duplication. Maybe it’s to grow your Connector Team, maybe it’s to recruit any missing nonprofit organizations to join Idealist, maybe it’s promoting Idealist as a resource in Seattle, or maybe it’s none of these and something totally different! There’s lots of room for it all.

What other questions do you have? Let us know in the comments!

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Meet a Connector: Blaise in Nairobi, Kenya

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Local pride on the streets of Nairobi
(photo by Meena Kadri via Flickr’s Creative Commons)

When Connector Blaise Jabo was a kid, he saw firsthand the power of a network—albeit in the face of tragedy.

“When we were in Burundi as refugees, everybody was sharing solutions to people’s problems,” he says.

Blaise was raised in Rwanda but when his parents were killed in the genocide, he moved to Burundi with his uncle. He then attended college in Australia, where he studied computer security, and later in Kenya, where he received a Master’s in security management.

Having experienced the effects of the Rwandan genocide, this notion of security compels him.

“I believe it’s time we think of security in another dimension, because clearly our state securities have been failing us. We should put people at the center,” he says.

It’s no surprise that Blaise is drawn to the Network’s simple philosophy: freedom and dignity for all.

New to Nairobi, he’s planning to get together with another Team member soon. As for who else he’s hoping to meet, his criteria are pretty broad.

“Anyone with a heart to share,” he says.

Live in Nairobi? Join Blaise! Live elsewhere? Look for a Connector Team near you or start one of your own.

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Open question: Should we form a statewide Team?

If this question has been on your mind, it might help to know you’re not alone.

We’ve been noticing some conversation recently about whether or not to combine Teams in some states across the U.S.

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Currently, there are 517 Connector Teams in the U.S.
(photo by Tom via Flickr’s Creative Commons)

Connector Jack Lockwood from Georgia—a large state with both urban and rural areas—argues the pros:

By being part of a statewide Team, isolated pockets of people would still get support from each other and still be able to work together on common problems. As a by product, people could get a better idea about issues that impact their whole state and also network with people from other areas but are still passionate about the state they live in.

Another reason to have statewide Teams is that there are people who may volunteer with Idealist but may have jobs or personal connections to other people throughout the state and could work together on advocacy, policy and laws that could impact everyone living in the state.

I think a statewide Team could also help as a strikeforce for local Teams as needed. For example. I have knowledge about writing grants but suppose my local Team does not currently need that skill. By also serving as a resource on a stateside Team I would be able help another local state Team as needed.

Connector Cindy Matthews from Ohio—a smaller state by comparison—speaks to the cons:

I think the main disadvantages to forming a statewide Team (in Ohio at least) are the differences in the areas/concerns in different parts of the state. Some areas of Ohio are rural and small-town oriented (like where I’m living) and others are metropolitan in their outlook (such as Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Cincinnati, etc.).

The cultures are different, the economies are different, and the square miles in a rural setting could prevent people from joining a Team because of travel costs/times involved. (Rural gasoline prices tend to be higher, we don’t have public transport, and we’re already forced to drive into cities for our medical appointments, shopping, to find work or attend college, etc.)

Regional Teams (smaller than a state, bigger than one town) possibly are the answer.

Our developers are currently working on offering the ability to consolidate Teams in major metropolitan areas, and exploring more combinations as well.

Before we do anything further, we’d love to hear from you: Does it make sense to merge Teams or stay separate where you live? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Meet a Connector: Elif in Istanbul, Turkey

Connector Elif Soykan has her feet in two worlds: Istanbul and Los Angeles.

She grew up in Turkey, where she studied sociology, but found herself drawn to Hollywood post-graduation where she worked at an advertising agency. Unfulfilled, she returned home after a few years.

Back in Turkey, Elif transferred her love of meeting new people from different cultures and backgrounds into a job as a cross-cultural consultant.

Elif hopes to use this training to its fullest in her new role as a Connector on both the Istanbul and Los Angeles Teams.

“As a cross-cultural trainer and a coach, I believe I can show people how powerful they are, how beautiful they are, and how much value they can bring to life to make it better,” she says.

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Elif on her terrace in Istanbul
(photo courtesy Elif Soykan)

Elif naturally connects others in her social circles all the time, but admits that when it comes to herself, one of her weaknesses is asking for help.

With the Idealist Network, she’ll use this focus on others to her advantage and help Istanbul become better connected. There are a lot of nonprofits in the city, but bureaucracy, lack of consensus in organizations, and commitment on behalf of volunteers can be challenging.

Still, Elif is hopeful. Next week she’ll be meeting with another Connector in the city to talk about how they can best pool the city’s resources.

“Sharing is so valuable. I’m afraid that in this new era, we’re losing it,” she says. “This Network gives me hope to unite again for the ultimate goal: make the world a better place.”

Do you live in Istanbul or Los Angeles? Join Elif! Live elsewhere? Look for a Connector Team near you or start one of your own.

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Watch, wait, and iterate!

We love how you’re signing up to be Connectors, chatting away on the Hub, and meeting up to amplify all the good happening in your communities around the world.

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So we want to step back for a minute and, first, thank you for being on this journey with us.

Second, we’d like to acknowledge that building a network like this takes time, and we appreciate you sticking with us as we work together to get the model right.

Connector Tessa Hawkins in Melbourne, Australia speaks to the value of being slow and steady:

So I’m a person who usually gets hyper-excited about things and when they don’t all take off at rocket speed I deflate like a balloon.

That will not happen this time!

To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the small number of members that we have in the Melbourne team. But then realised that Idealist needs to grow steadily and consistently, and we as Connectors are responsible for that.

So to achieve this I say our first aim should be consistent growth and patience. That is, start growing those linked into the Network.

We agree, Tessa!

Thanks to all of you again for your patience. We truly couldn’t do this without you.

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Meet a Connector: Nick in Atlanta, Georgia

If there’s one thing Nick Reynolds learned from his time in Peace Corps Ukraine, it’s this: meeting in-person is always a good idea.

“In Ukraine, you only knew something was definitely going to happen when you had that face-to-face meeting. When you looked that other person in the eye and said, ‘This is how it’s going to happen, this is what we’re going to do, right?’ And if they said ‘yes,’ you could count on it,” he says.

As the Community Manager for the Idealist Atlanta local page and a member of the Atlanta Connector Team, Nick has transferred that lesson to meeting in person with local organizations to see what they’re up to and share more about how Idealist can support their work.

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The MLK grave site, near the King Center in Atlanta
(image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

His first step is always encouraging employees to create an Idealist profile if they haven’t done so already. And nine times out of ten, they’re likely to pop up on the site if he’s had the opportunity to shake their hand.

He also plants himself at a local cafe each Monday for anyone—organizations, Idealist community members, Connectors—to chat.

“I consider myself to be an involved person. If there’s an opportunity to serve and I can’t come up with a reason not to do it, I’m going to wind up doing it,” he says.

Nick hopes the Idealist Network will help make more in-person connections in Atlanta that will lead to greater resource-sharing among organizations and more people getting involved in the causes they believe in. Living in the birthplace of the civil rights movement, he’d be hard pressed not to.

“[Atlanta] is a beacon of activism,” he says. “You can’t drive through the city without passing something that reminds you that the potential for positive change is here if you just get involved and engaged.”

Do you live in the Atlanta area? Join Nick! Not in Atlanta? Look for a Connector Team near you.

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Field Report! Team meeting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Baton Rouge’s Team may be small, but they have a lot of passion.

The city’s three Connectors, who have backgrounds ranging from global health, information technology, restaurant management, cultural anthropology, and youth development, met last week at a local coffee house to see how they could increase opportunities for action.

“We were all just so happy to connect with others who felt the same as us,” says Connector Karim Johnson.

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The State Capitol area in Baton Rouge
(photo courtesy Karim Johnson)

They started with the Three Questions (3Qs) Tool & Tactic, then talked about the skills and resources they each bring to the Team that can help their hometown. Though it covers a large geographical area, Baton Rouge doesn’t have a lot of nonprofits, social enterprises, or community groups.

“The Idealist Network is a highly-needed resource that can act as a catalyst to grow these types of groups so that communities can begin to shape their own change,” Karim says.

The Team’s next steps include defining the Connector role as they want to approach it, encouraging others to join the Network, and getting more people and organizations on Idealist.

They’re also in the early stages of developing their first public meeting and have committed to chatting in-person each week to keep the fire burning.

For Karim and others, the Network comes at an exciting moment in Baton Rouge’s history.

“There are so many young people and so much energy as the city is growing and rejuvenating,” Karim says. “It’s a good time to give people the tools to ensure it grows in a direction they envision.”

If you’re in Baton Rouge, join the Team! If you’re not, look for a Team—or start one—near you. And if you’re not a Connector yet, learn more and sign up here.

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Meet a Connector: Derek in Jérémie, Haiti

Derek Dell loves meeting new people. As an avid backpacker, encountering other travelers thrills him. As does deepening relationships and helping out when needed.

“Once you know someone, connecting becomes easier and more personal,” he says. “If I can help someone with a project, mission, or job, I’m always happy to write an email or make a phone call if I know someone else can contribute.”

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Derek in Jérémie
(photo courtesy Derek Dell)

Derek is now settled in Jérémie, Haiti as the Director of Finance at the Haitian Health Foundation. In this context, being a neutral Connector just makes sense.

“When you’re working in a developing country, your mission is always similar to others,” he says. “No one takes sides.”

Jérémie is one of the poorer and more isolated cities in Haiti. Dubbed the “city of poets,” it sits on the lower peninsula of the country and is cut off from the national highway. There are some bigger nonprofits in the area, and a number of smaller ones, and sometimes they work together.

Derek hopes the Idealist Network can add to the existing partnerships, and create new ones. He’s also hoping to meet other like-minded people in the area. His next step? Recruit more members to be on the Team.

“Realists and dreamers are all welcome,” he says. “No ideas are too small or too large.”

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If you’re a one person Team, how have you been finding other members? Let us know in the comments!

Do you live in Jérémie or nearby? Join Derek! No? Look for a Connector Team near you.

 

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Already connecting dots and people? Join us!

Intrigued by the Network, but not sure if you’re a Connector?

We think Amanda from Fayetteville, Arkansas put it just right:

Connectors are important for linking people to organizations and resources that can help them with their goal of making the world a better place.

It’s easy: refer a friend who wants to volunteer, talk to an organization about a similar organization you heard of, share a resource (like a video or book) for how to have a great fundraiser…there are so many quick ways to help people connect.

I’ve already been doing this for years as a “capacity builder” for non-profit organizations, but I look forward to having company here on our team of Connectors!

If you’re thinking, “Yes! This is me!”,  we’d love to have you join us.

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